Today I got to hold two babies. One of them was so tiny she looked like one of my daughter’s baby dolls. She has the sweetest nose, and she kept cracking these little smiles. Her twin brother was equally adorable. These babies are even more remarkable because one was given a deadly diagnosis in utero. The sweet baby girl was diagnosed with Trisomy 18. A selective abortion was presented to the parents. Many babies with Trisomy 18 don’t live long. In this case the parents chose life.
I went to the store to pick up a gift for the babies and it was the hardest baby gift I have ever bought. How do you give a gift to the parents of a tiny baby when no one is sure how long she will be here on this earth? What kind of gift is appropriate in this situation? How do you honor her life and her brother’s without seeming like one is more valuable than the other? I searched the baby section at the store and prayed that God would lead me to the gift that would bring comfort to the parents. I also thought, “What would I want as a gift if I were in this situation?”
My husband and I talked before I went to the store and he made a remark that really stuck with me as I searched. He said, “I guess we don’t really want to give them an outfit.” I get why he said it, he was thinking of the parents and didn’t want to give them something that would bring pain if she didn’t live long. As I stood there I thought if I had a baby and no one was sure how long he/she would live, I actually would want something to remember them by. I would want an outfit or a little hat, something that I could set aside and look back on to touch and remember that life, and how beautiful it was even though it was short.
A few years ago I went through a pretty difficult miscarriage. The hardest part for me even after the emotional and physical healing was the absence of a reminder. The ultrasound screen was turned away from me; I didn’t even get to see my child. It’s hard to explain in words the emptiness my arms experienced after that. Now three years later I still remember that precious child in my heart, but have nothing tangible to remind me that I am a mother of seven children, not six. I long for something, a picture or a footprint, anything to remind me of that life.
We went to the hospital to bring comfort to the parents but also to love on the precious babies. I wasn’t sure what to expect. We had been told she would be born with some physical deformities so I was prepared for that. What I was not prepared for was just how beautiful she is. I fell in love with that sweet baby girl. Even her little cry and her squeaks and grunts were like music. The fact that she survived after birth and she is able to suck formula from a bottle is more than anyone was expecting. Even at 2 days old she has outlived any expectations doctors had for her. Can you imagine? To be only 2 days old and already have exceeded everything that your parents and doctors thought you would be able to accomplish. What a great life to have the privilege of living.
I cannot imagine this world without these children, the ones with physical limitations, or mental limitations. Are they the easiest children to care for? Probably not, but the reward for welcoming them is huge! Jesus said to welcome the little children and to let them come to Him. I don’t believe he was referring only to those born in perfect health. Every life is wonderfully and fearfully made. God does not make mistakes. If I know anything it’s that welcoming those who are created differently only enriches our own lives and makes our society better. They are gifts that so many would say should just be aborted. Statistically 90% of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally are aborted; some estimates say it’s even higher for babies diagnosed with trisomy 18. This is a tragedy! What could we learn about pure love if our culture shifted to embrace these special children?
Every life has value and a purpose. The length of a life lived is NOT what determines its value.
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LifeNews Note: Melissa Jacobs is a stay at home wife and mom to six children. She spends her days cooking, cleaning and homeschooling the lively brood and loving almost every minute of it. She volunteers once a week at a local crisis pregnancy center, and co-leads the St. Louis Bound4LIFE chapter with her husband, Jeremy. Reprinted with permission from Bound4Life blog.